Bulls coach Billy Donovan has finally settled on his rotations
It took some trial and error, as well as some stinging losses, but Donovan feels pretty good about the rotation and combinations he has been using in the wake of the trade-deadline changes.
It won’t be tidy every game. Matchups, foul trouble or just a tired player who needs some extra minutes off could factor into Bulls coach Billy Donovan changing his mind about his roster combinations.
But Donovan said Friday he has settled on some combos he’s comfortable with, narrowing the rotation to nine players with the flexibility to stretch it to 10.
“A lot of it will be how the game is flowing — what the game dictates, matchups, those kinds of things,” Donovan said. “I do feel comfortable with some guys that may have limited playing time, utilizing those guys if it’s necessary. But you do want to get the [main] group somewhat comfortable playing with each other. I know we don’t have a lot of games to do that. It’s not like it’s an experiment. I think we’ve made some progress and some strides.”
Those have come through some serious trial and error. Adding five new players at the March 25 trade deadline did not lend itself to an easy transition. The Bulls found themselves trying to make their roster work on the fly at the start of a brutal West Coast swing, with Donovan figuring out how to use Al-Farouq Aminu, Javonte Green, Troy Brown Jr. and Daniel Theis after immediately inserting center Nikola Vucevic into the starting lineup.
Vucevic has obviously changed the look of the first unit. Theis and Brown have stuck in the rotation, working with mainstays Lauri Markkanen and Coby White off the bench.
Among those who had been getting regular minutes previously, Denzel Valentine is the biggest loser, followed by Ryan Arcidiacono.
“I think it’s important that all those guys stay ready,” Donovan said. “But with the way we’ve kind of been mixing and matching lineups based on the size of our frontcourt, I just don’t want to get into night in and night out just constantly changing rotation, changing rotation.”
ON AN AWKWARD ANKLE
The only game guard Zach LaVine has missed this season is the Bulls’ loss in Phoenix on March 31, after pain from a sprained ankle he had been dealing with for days started hampering him on the court.
The ankle isn’t 100% healed, but LaVine concedes it’s something he’ll have to deal with. It didn’t help that he rolled it a bit Thursday during a win over the Raptors.
“As long as I can go out there and shoot and help, I’m going to try to play,” he said. “I think you guys know that.’’
LaVine has missed just six games the last two seasons.
MARATHON, NOT A SPRINT
The timetable for Garrett Temple’s return from a hamstring injury remains blurry, with the veteran still unable to make suitable strides to get back on the court.
“We tried to get him to do some straight-line sprinting,” Donovan said. “I think he still had some discomfort. We had to back off from there with that. . . . I’ll probably have a better feel of what it looks like once he can do some straight-ahead sprinting, and he’s not at that point right now.”
Temple has missed six games with the hamstring injury. Add in an ankle injury he already had been dealing with, and he has played in only two of the last 15.